Today marks the end of my sixteenth month since starting work at Carleton. After a long holiday break, I've been terrifically busy with grantwriting. Between the first and thirty-first of January, my assistant and I worked on seven grant proposals with a combined value of more than $800,000. I think that's a good month's work, and of course we also did a considerable amount of other stuff: planning for upcoming submissions, follow-up work required by previously-awarded grants (such as more and less encyclopedic reports to funders), scanning endlessly the compendia of recently announced "requests for proposals." (It's no coincidence that I recently had a dream in which the letters "RFP" figured prominently and mysteriously.)
It's hard - even while walking around the frigid campus last week to get various muckety-mucks' signatures on a key form - to think anything about my work but, "What fools they are to pay me to do this!" It's not only satisfying to help bring in money for this professor or that program, but it's fascinating to learn about all the things the college is doing (from individual research projects all the way up to campus-wide initiatives); it's fun, in an idiosyncratically geeky way, to edit proposal materials (even the budgets!); and it's rewarding to see what I do at my desk turn magically into something very much like progress.
All that chocolately goodness was topped, a few weeks ago, with the powdered sugar of seeing a friend finally leave the company where I worked for him. He took e a far better job at a new company. He was, before being summarily reassigned back in 2005, the best boss I had at the Old Job: smart, industrious, cynical, dedicated to actually turning out "deliverables" that weren't embarrassing. No matter: the job and the company were such that hardly anyone (and certainly not me) could do anything but "fight fires" - try to resolve sudden problems that were the Most Important Thing right then. (Not for nothing was this guy our mascot).
Really, Carleton couldn't be more opposite in tone, pace, and attitude. Things move slowly and deliberately, leaving plenty of time (sometimes, maybe too much) to actually think about things. And I can actually do that thinking and talking and emailing in a setting where I trust that I'll be working with the same people for longer than the next two weeks. By the time I left the Old Job, in September 2005, I'd seen so much personnel churn that I could hardly bear to talk to many of my coworkers, since most were one job offer from leaving. (God knows I was.) Conversely, after being at Carleton for a year and a quarter, I'm still routinely the newest employee in any group, often by years. It's worth establishing good rapport and doing a good job because I'll probably be working with these people for years and years.
That's appealing in its own right, but it also indicates most Carleton employes' deep commitment to the college and to the idea of liberal-arts education. And there's the last comparison: few people with any power at the Old Job really seemed committed to the idea of education except to make "education" a commodity that could be commodified and sold, preferably in exchange for federal student-loan funds that went back into the owners' pockets. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with exploiting a market, but that particular arrangement never rang true for me, or "incentivized" me to further that goal. Sixteen months after last facing that soul-sucking situation, I'm happy to not have to face it again.
Now if only there was a Coke machine in my building...